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Deadly California Wildfire Erupts in December, Forcing Thousands to Flee

Last night a 500 acre fire exploded to massive size — raging over the hills of Ventura County in Los Angeles. Fanned by strong Santa Anna winds, the fire ballooned to over 45,000 acres by Tuesday morning forcing the evacuation of several thousand homes.

Already there are reports of homes and structures destroyed as the fire rages in or near a number of populated areas. Late last night, power was cut off to upwards of 200,000 people as the fire crossed utility lines. And as of early this morning, the fire was reportedly advancing toward Ventura with 500 firefighters on the scene trying to beat the blaze back. Thankfully, as of yet, there are no reports of injury or loss of life.

Climate conditions on the ground have been very conducive to out-of-season wildfires. During the past month, temperatures across the region have trended between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius above average. Southern California is settling into drought. And over the past day, a strong high pressure system gathering to the north helped to send 40-60 mph Santa Ana winds rocketing over the hills and valleys around Los Angeles.

(Powerful high pressure ridge north of California sent strong Santa Ana winds over a region of California experiencing a warmer than normal fall and falling into drought. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Due to human-forced climate change and a related warming of the U.S. Southwest, the fire season for California now never really ends. Global temperatures have increased by 1.1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, and climate zones are moving north. Both warmer temperatures and more extreme ranges of precipitation due to climate change aid wildfires in the west — first by allowing for rapid growth of vegetation during more intense wet periods and second by drying out these growths more swiftly as the climate regime switches to dry.

Since the 1980s, the number of large wildfires out west has quadrupled. But if fossil fuel burning continues, warming will also continue and the already difficult conditions we see will further worsen.

We are entering a time when a region of the west from California all the way north to Alaska and Alberta are starting to see wildfires capable of threatening cities with increasing frequency. If we are to dampen this trend, we need a change to less harmful energy sources and fast.

CREDITS:

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

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28 Comments

  1. Genomik

     /  December 5, 2017

    I found this on Google on YouTube, it seems like a guy reading tweets but thats good news. Its better than watching CNN which shows another catastrophe 24/7 named tRump.

    I can’t believe how fast these fire bombs happen in California. I just travelled with some people from down there, I hope they are ok. Its scary!

    Reply
  2. Julie Sharp

     /  December 5, 2017

    More fires in California… Wow…

    >

    Reply
  3. Future arctic sea ice loss could dry out California. Dec 5, 2017. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171205092142.htm

    The dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice cover observed over the satellite era is expected to continue throughout the 21st century. Over the next few decades, the Arctic Ocean is projected to become ice-free during the summer. A new study by Ivana Cvijanovic and colleagues from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley shows that substantial loss of Arctic sea ice could have significant far-field effects, and is likely to impact the amount of precipitation California receives. The research appears in the Dec. 5 edition of Nature Communications.

    The study identifies a new link between Arctic sea ice loss and the development of an atmospheric ridging system in the North Pacific. This atmospheric feature also played a central role in the 2012-2016 California drought and is known for steering precipitation-rich storms northward, into Alaska and Canada, and away from California. The team found that sea ice changes can lead to convection changes over the tropical Pacific. These convection changes can in turn drive the formation of an atmospheric ridge in the North Pacific, resulting in significant drying over California.

    Reply
  4. wili

     /  December 5, 2017

    California has had quite a year!

    “So far in 2017, wildfires have scorched some 1,700 square miles [4,400 sq km ] in California, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. ”
    [Data: http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats?year=2017 ]

    Reply
  5. Erik Frederiksen

     /  December 5, 2017

    A couple of years ago here in Northern California the Rocky Fire burnt 20,000 areas in one 5 hour period with little wind. That’s a speed more normally associated with fires driven by the Santa Ana winds. A NSW fire chief said that in Australia they are having to modify firefighting tactics because of more extreme fire behavior.

    In the book 6 Degrees by Mark Lynas he mentions a study indicating that at 3C the Amazon Rainforest may burn–its trees have little evolved resistance to fire–emitting enough CO2 to push us well into a 4 degree world.

    Reply
  6. wili

     /  December 6, 2017

    ” …about 150,000 people in Los Angeles were affected by evacuation orders for the Creek fire near Sylmar and Lake View Terrace”

    I’m pretty sure a friend of mine would have been one of those evacuated, as she lives right in this area.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/05/us/ventura-county-fire-california/index.html

    Reply
  7. Vaughn Anderson

     /  December 6, 2017

    In Southwest Washington the forecast is dry and relatively warm for the next ten days also. We are under the same ridge affecting California showing how extensive and powerful this ridge is right now. Minimal fire danger because we got about 14″ of rain in November at my place. Currently 59 degrees F(12 degrees F above normal) and barometric pressure of 30.6″ of mercury. Severe dry for the next 10 days, at least, during what is normally part of the wettest time of the year.
    https://www.wunderground.com/forecast/us/wa/la-center/KWALACEN20?cm_ven=localwx_10day

    Reply
  8. Witchee

     /  December 6, 2017

    I lived in Ventura, in what is now the mandatory evacuation area. I have driven the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass between the I 10 and the 101, which is now closed and burning, countless times. I left So Cal in part because I could see this coming, and it breaks my heart.
    If you are not familiar with The Empire Strikes First, you should check it out. This song is from there.
    Los Angeles Is Burning.

    Reply
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